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Local cooking program serves up solutions to volunteer crisis

In this Queensland Multicultural Month, the extraordinary work being done through the Queensland Association of School Tuckshops’ Connections Through Cooking Program is set to continue thanks to funding through the Celebrating Multicultural Queensland Program. 

The funding, provided from the Queensland Government, aims to support greater inclusion for diverse groups in Queensland and to help create opportunities for residents from diverse cultural backgrounds to better connect and contribute to their communities. 

 The Connections program places people, primarily women, from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, who are often from refugee and migrant backgrounds, as volunteers in school tuckshops.  

It’s a program that is very close to the heart of the Queensland Association of School Tuckshops Projects Managers, Astri Candrarini and Deanne Wooden. 

“Settling into a new country can be daunting for migrants and refugees. This program helps break down barriers, providing opportunities for women from culturally diverse backgrounds to get hands-on experience in the workforce, and learn and practice their English,” Astri said. 

“It’s a chance for these women to be active participants in the school community, meet new people, and gain local experience that can help them when moving on to paid work.” 

Since launching in 2019, the program has placed over 100 volunteers in school tuckshops and is showing no signs of slowing down.  

Schools from the Brisbane, Moreton Bay, Redlands and Logan City Council areas have benefited from the program, with 25 successful placements in the first half of 2023 alone. 

In a recent survey, 100 per cent of Connections volunteers enjoyed the experience and said they would recommend volunteering to their friends. 81 per cent thought they had learnt new skills that would help them get a job. 

“School tuckshops are crying out for volunteers, so the benefits of the program are two-fold; volunteers access a new working environment and learn new skills, and the tuckshop is exposed to different cultures and gains an invaluable extra set of hands,” Deanne said. 

This new round of funding will ensure the work being done to place volunteers in tuckshops can continue over the next year. 

“By funding these great projects, we continue to build on the many things Queenslanders are already doing to help their communities thrive,” Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Leanne Linard said. 

 “Our diversity in Queensland is our greatest strength, and when we work together to ensure everyone has opportunities to forge connections and contribute their skills to their local community, we build better social and economic inclusion for all.” 

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